Congress Prince : Will He Quit?
How the mighty are fallen in the midst of the battle!
This Biblical observation succinctly sums up the political venture of Rahul Gandhi, 46, into the hurly-burly of Indian politics and his Hamlet-ian dilemma, to be or not to be.
Not too long ago in complete command of his Congress Party and definitely the second most nationally known leader, after Narendra Modi, now Rahul Gandhi faces the mortifying possibility of being thrown out of his party stock, barrel and lock.
What is more shameful is the fact that it has yet not sunk in him that his credibility has abysmally nosedived and touched the nadir and that he is in a perilous situation with calls being brazenly made for him to quit. Otherwise, he would not have been complacently talking about restructuring and raising cadres in states.
Loyalists like Kamal Nath, Satyavrat Chaturdevi and several other party leaders have boldly demanded a change in top leadership. One bluntly said that the time for restructuring and reorganising was over, now a surgery is needed.
A recent article in The Times of India too was candid, ‘Gandhis must quit, Congress must re-invent itself as India’s first modern party. It said Congress’s fortunes are in a tailspin—it rules in just six states, while the BJP and its allies have 17 states in its kitty.
The pressure on Rahul would mount as some states are likely to go the saffron way by the year end or early next year. The Times of India article is also rather disparaging about Sonia’s chosen nominee for being prime minster—‘Rahul comes across as a disengaged politician’ and hoping he will win against a combine of Amit Shah and Modi is foolhardy.
Lord Megnad Desai was quite scathing. He ‘wrote’ to Rahul in his column in Indian Express, ‘Now is the hour to swallow that poison chalice your mother proffered to you some years ago.
It is time to admit that in a family, which has for five generations made sacrifices for the country, one more final sacrifice is needed and Rahul be asked to quit. Shobha De was more direct: ‘The most hurtful word in the limited dictionary of Gen Nex is ‘Loser’. The fact is that Rahul is an eternal loser, which his party has finally realised after the disastrous result in Uttar Pradesh.
But, Rahul on his return with Sonia Gandhi has let it be known that a post-mortem will be done to identify reasons for the defeat and the corrective measures will follow. It’s the repeat of the tactics following the 2014 general elections, when the party was reduced to a rump. The mother and son offered to resign, the CWC members suffered convulsions at the thought of being without the Gandhis and requested them to carry on and status quo was restored.
But times have changed. Arrogance, the attitude “I know it best”, and treating members shoddily and inaccessibility, in which Rahul excels cost the party heavy. It lost Assam and now Goa.. Yet like after the rout in 2014 generag elections, the faithful like Salman Khurshid went to the extent of saying that the party did not deserve Rahulji, After the disgraceful showing in UP, Raj Babbar, UP Congress chief, popped up to allege that ‘Rahul is not at fault’ and there were many other factors for the defeat.. He also asserted that Rahulji had in fact succeeded in his mission—Punjab was regained.
He continued with his defence—Congress got more seats than the BJP in Goa and Manipur–such assertions must have bolstered Rahulji to persevere with his style of running the party. He hardly needs foes with friends like Babbar.
The litmus test was the assembly election in Uttar Pradesh where Rahul could not do any worse than ‘managing to bring down party’s seats numbering 28 in the outgoing assembly to seven in the new one. But while summing up his party’s performance in five states where polls were held, Rahul casually said the party suffered a little damage in UP. A little, he said. One wonders if he really thinks so!
It raises the question whether Rahul ever deigns to ‘think’, otherwise he would not have been feeling so secure about his future in the party. The burgeoning numbers of his detractors cruelly say Rahul is incapable of thinking, otherwise he wouldn’t have had to take a trip to an undisclosed destination for introspection and for ‘enlightenment about the direction he must take to succeed in his political career.
Whether he found some Guru or he had self-illumination one will never know but on his return, he has been firing fusillades of abuses and charges against Narendra Modi. He has not, obviously, stopped to estimate if he has gained anything personally or politically from his mission of making fun or deriding the man he loves most to hate. It appears that Rahul is convinced that the only way to win elections is to just tarnish Modi’s image. Incredible that after 13 years in the thick of politicking Rahul has failed to understand that one has to promote one’s own rather than just to decry someone else’s product.
His most recent comments about Modi will affirm that Rahul does not think before he speaks and neither does he understand or realise that most of his anti-Modi comments ricochet and damage him both personally and politically. During the heat of campaigning for UP assembly election Rahul, at a public meeting he was addressing jointly with Akhilesh Yadav, said,‘Modiji is old now, we must give him some rest’ and the turning towards the crowd he added ‘And in 2019 we will retire him.’ The faithful chuckled and cheered. But now who is having the last laugh?
Rahul has been unable–or poor man is incapable–to comprehend that winning just seven seats, out of 403, by itself, although shameful would not have been that shocking—after all in 2014 general elections, it won just two seats– but for the fact that a 131-year-old party, which led the freedom movement, got two seats less than the Apna Dal—9 seats– which came into prominence when it aligned with Modi in 2014.
It could not be worse. The party members have finally realised that Rahul does not have in him to be able to garner votes. And this is what has endangered Rahul’s political future. For, in the Congress culture loyalty is dependent on leader’s ability to get his or her loyalists elected to a legislative body. If the leader cannot, he would have no followers.
The performance of Rahul has been so dismal and disappointing in UP despite aligning with Akhilesh Yadav, who had then the government administrative machinery under him, that calls for him to quit the party, until now muted, are now been loudly and unequivocally demanded.
This could split the party once more or even spell the end of the party. One Dehradun-based veteran Congress leader admitted that Sonia Gandhi made a fatal mistake in first anointing her son as prime minister in waiting and then persisting with him as lead election campaigner despite the party losing polls one after another. She harmed the party and ruined the life of her son. She should have accepted the fact that Rahul was simply not cut out for politics, particularly the complexities due to regional parties was beyond his comprehension.
This became evident when after campaigning for all the seats and even choosing candidates for each of all the 403 seats, Rahul suddenly entered into an alliance with Akhilesh and agreed to contest in 105 seats only. Any leader with knowledge of ground realities would have tried to find out whether Akhilesh would be able to transfer votes of his SP voters before entering into an understanding with him. But as the Dehradun veteran lamented Rahul was not cut out for politics but was forced into it by his mother. But after being in the thick of politicking at the highest level for almost 13 years, it is strange that Rahul has remained clueless about even the basics a politician must know, like the art of communication and mixing with constituents, helping them resolve their problems and thus build goodwill, that can be encashed when he contests for a legislative body.
Sadly, Rahul Bhaiya, having been parachuted by his mother to head the party, started functioning right away. He was not given any briefing about the party nor any overall knowledge of Indian politics.
The blame for this serious lacuna has to be borne by Sonia Gandhi. And she has also to share its consequences, disastrous and embarrassing both for her son and her party. She must have been aware that when Rajiv Gandhi joined the party on the insistence of Indira Gandhi, he was briefed by R.Venkataraman, the then Defence Minister, about Indian polity and the Congress history.
She had claimed, after he was chosen at Jaipur Convention to head the re-organisation of state units and lead poll campaigns, that politics was like poison. Lord Desai referred to this mother-son dialogue when he heartlessly, but rightly advised Rahul, ‘Now is the hour to swallow that poisoned chalice your mother proffered to you.’
Yet in 2004, Rahul Gandhi, 32+, joined politics, and as per Dynastic traditions, started his political innings as the most powerful, second only to his mother in the party and a right to veto whatever the Singh government legislated or proposed, had no one to guide him.
The protocol and privileges exclusively for prime ministers were enjoyed by Rahul. The party leaders fawned on him, realising he was the real power. He promised to build up the party organisations in the states and win back crucial ones where regional parties had snatched power from the Congress. The Congressmen pinned their hopes on him that he will lead the party to greater power and regain the states where regional parties had pushed them out.
Now, 13 year after, call it curse of ‘13’ or his stupidity in depending on mere abuses and vitriol outbursts against Modi to win him elections, and his hit and run style, as veteran S.M. Krishna pointed out, or his sheer foolishness as one of his exasperated party legislator in Goa, for converting victory in the assembly election into defeat, Rahul faces an ignominious exit.
There are clear signs of a lack of imagination at the top and there is no visibility as to how the party plans to reinvent itself in order to stay relevant. Rahul has shown repeatedly that whenever he tries to innovate something to promote the party and win support, he more than often gives the impression that he is more of a joker than serious politician.
For instance, he told his constituents in Amethi that he will set up a factory for potatoes, and in Moradabad he said that when Michelle Obama purchases a copper utensil she should find etched on it “Made in Moradabad”. Doesn’t he know that a country’s name is given not a city’s? His lack of common sense, his inability to bring himself to the level of the common man and above all his inability to match the electoral machinery and well-planned strategy of Amit Shah make his future in politics bleak. In any case, he doesn’t seem to like politics; every now and then he disappears as if to renew his energy.
But politics requires 24X7 planning to ensure continued support, and not a hit and run working, like once Rahul moved a motion but had flown to some exotic destination so when the motion came in Parliament he was absent. Then we heard him claim that he speaks after a deep study; this is why his interventions and addresses are earth-shaking. Such aggrandisement and illogical claims reveal that he remains an immature 46. He obviously evokes maternal instincts, which only small chubby, chuckling babies do. Rahulji has obviously despite being 46, made Sheila Dikshit and Meira Kumar say that Rahul needs time to mature.
His immaturity has almost destroyed the Congress, a 131—year old movement the ideology of which laid the foundation for democracy. The best thing for him will be to heed Lord Desai’s sage counsel to him, ‘take responsibility (for the defeat) resign from any leadership post permanently. Resign from the primary membership of the Congress. Get the entire family (we may add please don’t forget Vadra) to come out with you.’
Rahul will be remembered as a meteor, which sparkled for a moment before disappearing into horizon, unless he changes himself, his leadership strategy and his party’s policies.
by Vijay Dutt